Attorney General Becerra Opposes EPA Proposal to Discount Benefits of Critical Environmental Standards

Monday, August 3, 2020
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today, as part of a coalition of 18 attorneys general, filed a comment letter with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opposing a proposal that would discount public health benefits and inflate industry costs in Clean Air Act rulemaking. If enacted, the proposed changes to the EPA’s cost-benefit analyses could weaken critical environmental standards that protect public health and the environment. In the letter, the attorneys general urge the EPA to abandon its proposed rule, arguing that the changes are unnecessary, contrary to law, arbitrary, and unworkable.

"As our country is ravaged by a respiratory pandemic, the Trump Administration is rigging important calculations to inexplicably exclude life-saving environmental benefits like limiting particulate matter pollution." said Attorney General Becerra. “Once again, human life doesn't seem to factor into the equation when the Trump Administration has its way. Let's be clear, it's our low-income communities – already disproportionately at risk of serious health consequences from coronavirus – who will suffer first and worst under the proposed cost-benefit analyses."

In developing regulations, the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to weigh the cost to industry against the societal and environmental benefits resulting from the regulation. The resulting analysis impacts whether the regulation is determined to be justified and can impact the regulation’s strength. Recognizing the varying nature and purpose of the programs encompassed by the Clean Air Act, Congress put forward different approaches for how and whether EPA considers benefits and costs in rulemaking. 

In its proposed rule, the EPA suggests ignoring this mandate, introducing a one-size fits all approach to analyzing the costs and benefits of environmental regulations that discounts or in some cases entirely ignores critical environmental and public health benefits. For example, the proposal fails to include co-benefits, which result from reductions in pollutants that are not the direct subject of the regulation. Failing to include co-benefits not only flouts fundamental economic precepts but would violate the EPA’s statutory duties, undercutting the agency’s core mission to protect public health and the environment. The EPA also inexplicably refuses to use a scientifically credible social cost of carbon estimate in its regulatory analyses, despite the explicit condemnation of the EPA’s methodology by our nation’s leading scientists. Moreover, the EPA fails to analyze the proposal’s significant environmental justice implications and thus to provide the public with an opportunity to comment on any such analysis.

In the comment letter, the coalition argues that the EPA’s proposal is not only contrary to science and reason, but substantively flawed and must be abandoned. The coalition highlights that the EPA failed to demonstrate that it has legal authority to introduce its proposal and has not met its obligations under Section 307 of the Clean Air Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia in filing the comment letter. 

A copy of the comment letter can be found here.

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